Along the Tracks

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Chapter and verse

Maybe it’s the 9-11 anniversary getting to me; maybe it’s all the news about child abductions, pedophile priests and Islamist gang-rapists; maybe its the nausea of “reality TV” like The Real Beverly Hillbillies - but I’ve been in a bit of a, I don’t know, apocolyptic kind of mood lately.
One of my all-time favorite philosophers on psychology, ethics, sociology and politics had a few things to say about the challenges of today’s society:
•On abuse of children: “Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me - it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!”
•On corporate scandals: “Woe to you who are rich, because you have received your comfort.”
•On the mockery and gossip sought and encouraged by reality TV: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours,” and “Whatever you did for one of the least of these My brothers, you did for Me,” and “Woe to you who are laughing now, because you will mourn and weep.”
•On the Holy Land, Islamism and the War on Terror: “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
•On hate-mongering: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
•On terrorism and the world’s opposition to a morality based foreign policy: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” and “Woe to you when all people speak well of you ....”
(Translations from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

Another Bible note, if you will: Others have said this before - most recently Thomas Sowell in a syndicated column - but the recorded promise God made to Abraham - “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you” - has held up, whatever the reasons we might want to believe.
Look at all the historical enemies of the Jews. Egypt? That country has been on a steep downward curve since Pharoah tried to cut off Moses at the Red Sea. Now, it’s a second-rate Arab thugocracy which, low and behold, is about the only country in the Middle East without oil under its sand. Cursed, you might say. Babylon/Iraq? Not much to show since Nebudchadnezzar, with the notable exception of the early Islamic empire - when its leaders were quite tolerant of Jews. Today, it’s cursed with a murderous dictator, but that situation will most likely be changing in the near future, when another chance at redemption will afford itself.
Greece? The founding Western civilization was top dog until some crazy general decided he was god and should be worshiped everywhere, including Jerusalem. Desecration of the Temple is pretty serious; Rome rolled in shortly thereafter, and since then, the most impressive thing the Greeks have contributed is pita bread. Rome? Desecration is one thing; destroying is another: Hello, Visigoths! Mussolini was the first to unite Italy in about 1,500 years, and we all know where that went. Nowadays, they don’t even have their own money.
Spain? The Spanish Inquisition was hard on Jews; history hence has been hard on Spain. The backwater of Europe ever since, and not likely to change anytime soon. France? Anti-Semitism is as common as smelly cheese on the Seine; that’s why France has long been, and continues to be, an annoying international irrelevance. Russia? Communist dictators hate religion; Jews are among those who are religious; Communist empire falls.
Of course, I’ve saved THE BIG ONE for last: Germany. What can you say? Post-Holocaust Germany was occupied and split up; its people largely wander in a moral no-man’s land; it’s citizens wear the mark of Cain. No amount of thought, diplomacy or money will ever cover the black mark of Nazism. No country will ever really trust Germany. The German people don’t even trust themselves: Freedom of speech and the press, freedom of organization - these things are limited by German statutes meant to hold down fascist zeal. It’s a pretty safe prediction that Germany will never again be a world power. It’s the sad story of a people who allowed themselves to be swept up in the curses cast by an evil man.
It is also more proof that the promise to Abraham still holds.
George Washington chose a Jewish synogogue to speak out in favor of the First Amendment’s protection of religious expression and belief. Americans have had plenty of moments of bigotry, but the United States as a whole has been a bulwork in protecting freedom for Jews, liberating Jews elsewhere and supporting Jews as they re-establish Israel. America, by almost any measure you come up with, has been blessed.
Leaders should keep all this in mind when they go about picking sides in the Middle East.

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